PEPPERELL – The community suffered a major loss last weekend with the sudden passing of a beloved resident and former official and employee.
William Greathead died on Sunday after suffering a heart attack at the age of 59.
Greathead was chair of the Select Board and was first elected to the board in April 2018. According to Town Administrator Andrew MacLean, Greathead was not planning to run for re-election when his term expired in April. Before entering town politics, Greathead had served on the Police Department for over 30 years before retiring in November 2017.
“Bill served Pepperell since joining the Auxiliary Police Department in the 1980s until the day he died, still an active reserve police officer and chairman of the Pepperell Select Board,” the Pepperell Police Department said in a statement posted to Facebook. “He loved Pepperell and Pepperell loved him back.”
“Bill served as a police officer for the town for many years, accompanying our department on endless calls, to keep us safe,” the Pepperell Fire Department said in a statement posted to Facebook. “As a selectman, he was a great friend of the department. Above all, he only wanted the best for anyone he came in contact with, and for this town.”
Mary Beth Greathead, the selectman’s wife, said her husband has always been willing to help the community regardless of his job title. She said Bill’s law enforcement career started right when they first moved to Pepperell in 1984, when Bill became a member of the Auxiliary Police Department. He then became a part-time member of the department while also being an electrician, though he was later layed off from the latter job. But when he heard about a full-time opening on the force, Bill went to the police academy at 31-years-old, the oldest person in his class.
“He was the kind of guy who would help anyone and everyone,” she added. “He was on the helping side of everything, that was his calling.”
Mary Beth Greathead said Bill retired from the force after too many turns on the midnight shift, but still wanted to serve the community. That’s when he heard that then-Selectman Melissa Tzanoudakis was not seeking re-election to the Select Board at the 2018 Town Election and decided to take a run at town government.
“He had been to some meetings of the board and felt that people didn’t have a voice there, so he wanted to change that,” Greathead said. “He wanted to work for the people and know what they wanted to be addressed.”
Greathead’s fellow selectmen expressed sadness in his passing and recognized his connection with local residents.
“He just genuinely cared about the community and was such an honorable person,” Select Board Clerk Margaret Scarsdale said. “He always conducted himself with such dignity. No one left a conversation with him feeling disrespected or lessened by him, he was so selfless and humble. He is already sorely missed.”
Joanna Reagan, who is affiliated with the Council on Aging and is involved in many other community initiatives, described Greathead as a “community icon.”
Selectman Anthony Beattie said the news of Greathead’s passing was “really shocking” and saluted him for caring about town business as much as he cared about his family.
“He worked so hard for the community and raised a great family,” Beattie added. “He was a hero to our community.”
MacLean said that he and the Select Board have not discussed what the board plans are regarding the vacancy now on the board, but he did note that they’ll likely not organize a special election to fill Greathead’s seat before the annual town election on April 26.
Greathead’s wife confirmed that he was not planning to seek re-election this April, wanting to have more free time and anticipating the arrival of their first grandchild due in June.
Greathead is survived by his wife Mary Beth and their four sons: Christopher, Brian, Evan and Tyler. He is also survived by his brother, Fred.